Do you like City-style wine bars? Me neither. All the more reason, then, to be impressed with the latest 5CC venue, newly opened on the bustling Farringdon Road, where the hemmed-in intensity of the square mile gradually bleeds into the artiness of South Bank. Farringdon is the kind of place that I will usually only go to meet friends who work in finance, before escorting them to somewhere on the outskirts of the square mile – Holborn, maybe, or Aldgate East if I want to scare them a bit.
5CC occupies a cellar space beneath the Harrild & Sons pub, and they make excellent use of it. Glowing orange lighting, wire meshes hiding half-lit spirit bottles and leather upholstery gives 5CC a moody, intimate, speakeasy feel. The bar itself is something to behold – a glistening wall of glass and crystal, housing an imperious cabal of the proudest, most self-satisfied whiskeys, vodkas and aperitifs in the business.
Depending on who you talk to, cocktails are either a great way to get drunk without subjecting yourself to the brutal taste of strong alcohol or a borderline-sacred art-form-cum-dance-routine. At 5CC, the selection is formidable, established classics sharing the limelight with some racy and inventive newcomers. Most notable was a creamy pistachio number (‘P-Daq’) served short, with the frothy consistency of a good latte. Mixed with rum, pistachio syrup and lime, the P-Daq was unusual and refreshing, sweet without ever becoming cloying, like a sophisticated smoothie.
We move onto our second round with the help of our observant barman, who slides two more drinks across to us with an immortal, ‘You look thirsty’. This time we’re having The Lotus Eater – spiced dry vermouth with ginger, lemon and papaya, sharpened by a dash of gin – which slices right through the lingering pistachio with a citrus zing. The dryness of the vermouth is what makes this one a success – it strikes up an excellent contrast with the fruit, flavours in animated conversation with one another.
I’m afraid that I’m not an informed guide beyond our third drink – these aren’t your watered-down student-union plastic-cup ‘VodBulls’; the cocktails here pack a real punch – but there is no doubt that 5CC matches what can be expected of a good cocktail lounge, from its masterful array of whiskeys (over 80 varieties, making it one of the most comprehensive selections in London) to the dimly-lit sophistication of the décor. Granted, it’s not cheap: most cocktails yield no change from a £10 note, but they are excellent drinks. After all, 5CC isn’t the kind of bar you’d launch into to ‘strawpedo’ a few VK Apples on your way to Inferno’s. Relaxation – the transition from the concentration of the working day to the liberation of the evening, the substitution of the smartphone for a Smirnoff – is paramount. And that’s what City-style wine bars are all about, isn’t it?
5CC @ Harrild & Sons
26 Farringdon Street